Cross Training

Cross training for runners refers to any form of aerobic exercise other than running.  Cross training is an important component to training as it challenges the body in a different way, as well as letting your body have a rest day from running.

Some training plans incorporate cross training and some do not.  It really depends on your running level, and if your body needs a break from running.  I also think cross training can be helpful for days when you may be unmotivated to run, but something else seems fun. I personally look forward to my cross training days because it is something different, and I usually try to incorporate them around something fun (riding bike with a group of people).

In the past I have incorporated cross training into my training programs and have really enjoyed it. I do not have cross training in my upcoming marathon schedule, but that is not to say that I will not add it in.  By that I mean I will stick with my program, but add in cross training just for fun.

As the weather is getting nicer I tend to go on bike rides with my husband and friends for fun, and that is something I add into my workout, but I do not use it as a replacement for running.

However, you absolutely can use cross training as a replacement for a run one day if you would like. With that being said, do not replace a long run or a specific run (sprints, hills, or a tempo run) with cross training. You can replace an easy, low effort 3-4 mile run with cross training though. The reason you want to keep long runs and specific runs is because they help you toward your overall goal- the event you are going to run in.

Cross training is beneficial for runners because it allows our body to get in another form of exercise that utilizes different muscles, while also adding an enjoyment factor.

Here are some various forms of cross training that can benefit your aerobic capacity:


I personally enjoy bike riding (road bike), cycling classes and using the Stair Master. I typically workout on the Stair Master for 30-40 minutes, and use level 12 and whatever “course” I feel like. Yesterday for example I did a 30 minute workout on level 12 and used the “Fat Burning” course.  It was hard. I also used the elliptical for 15 minutes on a “hill” course.  Why only 15 minutes?  Simply a time factor.

Although I will be honest and say that I do not enjoy the elliptical.  I personally find it boring, but I continue to use it (rarely.. like once a month) for something different.

In the winter I really enjoy indoor cycling classes (spin classes).  They are a fantastic way to get in an aerobic workout and can be both fun and challenging.

I am personally not a strong swimmer, but swimming is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise there is! I do not live near mountains, but hiking is also beneficial because you are adding in the strength element as well as altitude.  I have hiked in the past on vacation and have really enjoyed it.

One of my college roommates was on the Iowa rowing team, and wow… her workouts were intense. The ergometer (their version or the treadmill for rowing) is a great alternative for a cross training day.

My husband really loves tennis and I am really, really bad.  However, tennis is a great cross training activity as you are constantly moving!

There are dozens of other activities I did not list (soccer, basketball, cross countering skiing, etc.). You just need to find your favorite!

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned cross country skiing unit now.  I LOVE it.  I took a weekend class on it when I was at the University of Iowa and absolutely loved it. We went up to Cable, Wisconsin and stayed at a wonderful lodge and spent two days skiing.  I hate downhill skiing, but cross country skiing is where its at. It is one of the best forms or aerobic exercise there is and is quite challenging.

With that being said I need to go!  I am running a local 5k this morning and need to get ready for it. Have a fantastic Saturday!

What forms of cross training do you enjoy?

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